The 2012 trip was designed to go to places in Europe missed by the 2010 trip. If the 2010 trip is visualized as one slash of an X across Europe, this one was to be the other slash. It seems to be my pattern (as I get older) to aim for more than I can deliver, and so the 2012 trip shown above was originally planned to be continued east across Russia. But after three months on the road, I felt somewhat beat ... and besides, things were happening at home that needed my attention. And so I wintered the bike with friends in Estonia with the intent of returning in 2013 and continuing east. Well, as you can see from the 2013 map, another plan developed. All good. All good.
But after once again flying the bike over to London in April, I headed south. I was going to travel around Spain counter-clockwise, but a deep, stagnant low hanging out along the northern coast immediately forced me towards the south. That worked out well, although I never did make it to northern Spain. But after a couple of days in Lisbon, I was incredibly impressed by the ride across central Spain. I was really expecting hot and dry only, not the range of terrains and lushness encountered. Just beautiful. But I was almost too early in the season for crossing the Pyrenees as I encountered snow and slippery riding conditions at the passes. Yikes. A coastal ride across France led to the Cinque Terre region of Italy where I spent several days in the tent fighting off a fever and some kind of throat infection. Bummer as it was only lost days. So I only saw some of the area in a brain fog, but the fog lifted as I made my way east into the Dolomites and had a quick sample of Slovenia and the Julian Alps... another wonderful surprise and a quick poke into Croatia. Slovenia became a one of the leaders in my top-ten list. So much so that when Diane visited me in Budapest a week later, we hopped on the bike and spent ten days exploring this eastern end of the Alps. Awesome, awesome area.
But after she headed home, I headed east through Slovakia and stopped in the town of Banska Stavnica... well deserving of it's UNESCO heritage designation. And then north to Poland, with a sobering and profoundly disturbing visit to Auschwitz. After that I just had a rather quiet ride north through the Baltic states to rest and recover with my friends Bill and Tiiu in Estonia. They introduced me to their friends, and now my friends, Mari and Ants. Having made before leaving home all the visa arrangements for visiting Russia, I decided to at least make a foray into Russia and so rode to St. Petersburg where I stayed for a few days. A jaw-dropping beautiful city. If they ever streamline the visa process (and start reining in their terrible drivers), Russia will be a very deserving major tourist destination. It is just beautiful.
Ants graciously offered to store my bike for the winter. That worked out very well as it saved me a full round-trip of bike transport. I feel truly indebted to him for that generous offer. And the bike was in perfect shape for 2013...
Like the map for 2009 and 2010, the map above, it is fully zoomable and moveable. The layers pulldown in the upper right allows you to display several versions of the base map and toggles on the nightly stops as well. Nightly stops are marked with green tents for camps and with beds for hotels or other roofs over my head. Clicking on an icon gives the location and day. The track file can be downloaded and viewed in GoogleEarth. Be sure to toggle it on (in the left-hand "Places" column of GoogleEarth) if it doesn't display right away. Unfortunately, because of an inconsistency in how colors are interpreted, the track is green both in my map and in GoogleEarth (RGB vs BGR... green being the same!) making it a little hard to see in GoogleEarth. Zoom in, it's there if you've turned it on.